Rambus to discuss new Redwood logic bus

Fresh off its reprieve from fraud charges regarding memory technology, Rambus will provide details on a new parallel interface bus for on-chip connections between components at the Intel Developer's Forum in San Jose, California.

Executives from the Los Altos, California, company will discuss Redwood, the code name for a new processor bus that will provide a low-cost, low-power interface at speeds far greater than existing processor buses, the company said. Buses serve as the pathways for data packets traveling around a circuit.

The new parallel bus interface is available for licensing as of Monday. Rambus does not manufacture any of its products, it instead licenses the designs to chip builders, and provides design and implementation assistance to its clients.

Redwood will run at speeds ranging from 400MHz to 6.4GHz and will be used in products such as PCs, set-top boxes, and network interface cards, said Rich Warmke, director of marketing for Rambus.

It is designed to connect components over short distances on a motherboard, with a maximum range of 15 inches (38.1cm), Warmke said.

Rambus has traditionally focused on memory interface technology, and its RDRAM (Rambus dynamic RAM) product is used in high-end PCs. The company's appeal of a fraud verdict against it for allegedly conspiring to have a DRAM standards-setting body include its patented memory technology in the standard for SDRAM (synchronous DRAM) was overturned in late January by a panel of U.S. appeals court judges.

Rambus is using a new circuit technology in Redwood called FlexPhase circuit technology., which is also used in Yellowstone, Rambus' new high-speed memory interface, Warmke said. FlexPhase allows Rambus to eliminate some of the traditional bottlenecks with circuit designs, such as the need for PCB (printed circuit board) trace length matching, he said.

Chip designers must undertake a painstaking process of making sure all the data wires in a bus are about the same length, said Kevin Krewell, senior editor of the Microprocessor Report in San Jose. For example, data traveling through 32-bit buses actually moves down 32 separate wires, and all those wires must be approximately the same length in order to prevent data exchange problems, he said.

Synchronizing these lengths, or trace length matching, is accomplished by snaking individual wires that are too long around an area on the motherboard, so that data moving on a faster path travels a longer distance than data on a slower path, Krewell said.

By removing the need to physically match those lengths, Rambus can lower the cost of a motherboard and make the board design more compact, he said. At higher circuit speeds, conventional circuits are forced to slow down to accommodate the bus speed, and this technology would allow for faster bus speeds, according to Krewell.

Chip designers will be able to implement Redwood alongside other industry-standard I/O technologies, such as Rapid I/O and Hypertransport, Warmke said.

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